OLWG · writing

OLWG# 245- Haibun 03.02.22

Written for OLWG# 245



I found myself in a cold sweat standing outside Bobby’s place. The wind was blowin’ in hard, from the gulf. I pounded on his door until that chick, Remy, answered, and then I pushed my way inside.
“What the hell?” The chick asks, fumblin’ for a smoke.
“Where’s Bobby?”
“He’s gone to Tupelo. His Momma’s sick.”
“I need some Percs. You got some?”
“No, we only got dors and fours.”

Codeine wraps her warm
arms around him and, he is
lost in her embrace


This week’s prompts were:

  1. a young man sleeps with his dreams
  2. fumbling for a cigarette
  3. more money than sense

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 243- Peggy

Written for OLWG# 243



When Peggy came back, she found herself sitting in a chrome-tubed vinyl chair pulled up next to the round Formica kitchen table that had belonged to her mother. It took some time to recover her senses, and when she did, she was staring at the tabletop. The radio played Johnny Cash softly in the background, and the back door stood open. The screen door stood shut, but the screen, itself, was torn from top to bottom.

The scars and stains of the table stared back at her. She knew them as well as they knew her. There were chared spots around the edge of the table, from where her mother had set cigarettes and forgotten to pick them back up. There were gouges put into the top by knives and forks over the years. There were patches where the charcoal boomerangs and spots were almost entirely worn off from years of cleaning, wiping with hand towels and sponges. There was the chip at the edge for which no one had ever claimed responsibility.

The music faded and, Deacon Smith, the radio host, began spouting the inane monologue for which he was well known. Thankfully he didn’t tie up the airwaves too long before Johnny Cash started singing again. This time a cover version of a Nine Inch Nails hit.

Peggy thought about the ghosts on the radio, were they like the spirits in the house? What was the purpose of a ghost, anyway? Was there a meaning to what was happening to her? If so, she couldn’t figure it out. Maybe she wasn’t meant to understand. Perhaps she was incapable of understanding. She hoped that it might all become clear after she had endured all that she could stand. Should she be more frightened of the ghosts than she was? Should she take comfort in their presence? She reached for the half-full bottle sitting at the centre of the table. Reaching for the comfort that she could understand. Comfort that she desired more than anything in the world, right now.

How long had she been gone? Where had she been?


This week’s prompts were:

  1. old country love songs
  2. you brought this on yourself
  3. ghosts on the radio

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 242- Summer Work

Written for OLWG# 242



I used to take summer jobs when I was in high school. On one of those breaks, I took a job as a painter, not a house painter but a picture painter; I was fifteen years old.

The boss was a guy named ‘Frank.’ He ran the business with his wife, Ellen and made it his mission to earn as much money as possible while providing affordable art. Selling to aficionados. Collectors who might have fallen on hard times or otherwise found it hard to pay for what many folks considered to be extravagances. 

The potential customer would contact Frank about acquiring a piece. Frank would collect the pertinent information, like:

  1. What’s your preferred palette?
  2. Do you want a portrait, landscape, seascape, still life, abstracts, non-objectives, or something else?
  3. What medium: Oils, acrylics, watercolour, pen and ink, charcoal, pencil, pastels?
  4. How much space do you need to fill? Just above the couch? Over a headboard? In the dining room? The hallway? etc.?
  5. How much money do you have to spend?

Frank hired people like me who could draw and paint. I was the youngest employee and the only high school student. He hired housewifes, pensioners, and college kids; mostly housewifes, though.

He paid us by the hour. It was a working business model. I was doing what I loved and making good money for a high school kid, in those days.

Then it happened, Frank was contacted by Frau Vermietung, whose husband was a pilot working out of Holloman. The Vermietungs wanted some artwork to reflect the Contemporary Mexican style; she wanted tapestries, weavings, or needleworks. Frank then needed an artist with the skills to comply. I introduced him to Amarissa Becerra Alemán. Amarissa and I had been in the same classes since grade five. She was a weaver and kept a large floor loom set up in the front room of her house. She would take commission work to help out and earn money for her family.

When Frank saw her textiles, he offered me a bonus. I told him to give the extra money to Amarissa.

Amarissa invested as little as possible into the materials for her tapestries. Cheap cotton string served as the warp and heavy yarns were the weft.

Frank asked her to make a serape featuring bright greens, blues, and yellows for Fr. Vermietung to hang over the fireplace. Amarissa gave it to him the next day, it was flawless. The Vermietungs fell in love with it and immediately ordered five more.

Not more than a month later Amarissa and her family disappeared. Word was, that a warrant was out on her dad, don’t know what for, most likely bullshit.

It is easy to disappear in the interior of Mexico.


This week’s prompts were:

  1. affordable art
  2. a colourful serape
  3. sinners, strangers all

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 241- Fierte

Written for OLWG# 241



Samantha peeked in the door at ‘Fierte’ and shuddered. She backed out again to the sidewalk, took a deep breath, ran her fingers through her hair, opened the door again, and this time went all the way in. She attempted to portray confidence threading her way between the tables to the long bar that ran the entire east wall. She caught the eye of the middle-aged woman who raised her head in acknowledgement. Sam waited and surveyed the place. The joint was hopping; the dance floor packed, the music cranked up loud. Mirrors were on every wall. The clientele seemed comprised of millennial nerds and geeks. They were all occupied – watching their reflections as they sat drinking, dancing, or staring at a few of the fittest girls and boys in the room. The women were young and pretty, so were the boys.

The lady arrived and stuck out her hand. “You must be Samantha?” she said. “I’m Moonbeam. I own this joint, and you’re looking for a job. I can’t tell you how glad I am you called. You have bartending experience, right?”

“I do,” Samantha said.

“You OK with an LGBTQ crowd?”

“I am.”

“Great, you might have to expand your knowledge of mixology.” Moonbeam smiled.

“In what way?” Sam asked, “I’m already a pretty good bartender.”

“Our clientele are somewhat eclectic drinkers. The hottest selling drink here is an Oregano Slingshot. Have you ever made a White Howler or a Garlic Zombie?”

“White Howler’s I know,” Sam answered, “Half and Half with a spiced whisky; sometimes a coffee liqueur. The drink is creamy but surprisingly smooth in the exit, leaving your mouth with trails of warm spices followed by a fading hint of butterscotch, or cacao, depending on which whiskey you use. I don’t think I ever heard of the other two.”

Moonbeam snapped her fingers, “You are halfway there, babe. How about an Almond Slapper? A Spirit Stinger? Maybe, a Coconut Murder or a warm Fancy Bear?”

Samantha shook her head.

Moonbeam looked her over. She must have liked what she saw, “When can you start?”

“Well, I…”

“You keep all the tips at the bar. Servers split their tips with you. You have most likely made all the other drinks before. Here we just, – Oh, I don’t know, make them in a more organic way and rename them to appeal to our customer base.”

Samantha thought about the offer. She was a little nervous about working only for tips, but the place was packed, and it was a Tuesday. She opened her mouth to ask if the business was always this brisk when Moonbeam began to sweeten the pot.

“I can’t give you an hourly wage here – Union rules, you know, but I can promise you a generous salary to go with those tips. I also offer a comprehensive health care for employees, profit sharing and a 401K. “Whadda ya think?”

Sam shook her head and wondered aloud, “Can this be real? I think I like it.”

 


This week’s prompts were:

  1. in a more organic way
  2. the devil makes three
  3. a girl with a grudge

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 240- Take Her to Church

I spent longer than I meant to on this, but…

Written for OLWG# 240



Shortly after Kayleigh and I got married, there were a few issues at work and, we had to move in with her parents. It was less than a month before Christmas and, I wasn’t feeling good about the situation, but Kayleigh’s parents, Frank and Ann, were good people and never made me feel as though we were imposing.

On the Sunday morning before the holiday, Frank and I found ourselves watching golf together on television. Frank was big on golf and, it was his TV. I watched whatever Frank was watching.

“Aside from dinner, here at the house, what are you and Kayleigh going to do on Christmas?” Frank asked.

“We haven’t talked about it.” I said, “Do you guys have any family traditions that I should know about?”

“Take her to church.” Frank advised, “That can be quite…memorable.”

“I’ll talk with her about that, Frank,” I said.

Frank smiled and turned his attention back to the golf on TV. That evening I asked Kayleigh if she wanted to go to church on Christmas and, she seemed excited about the idea. I admit that this surprised me, as I had never known her to care about religion, one way or another.

When Christmas came, Kayleigh got dressed up for church and made sure that I looked presentable as well. We loaded into the car and drove only a mile or two to the church that Kayleigh and her family had attended when she was growing up. We got there just as the organist began playing what I assumed might be a “Call to Worship.” We hustled inside. Kayleigh paused in the Narthex and said, “I want to sign the guest book. Give me just a minute.” I nodded and looked through the window into the sanctuary. There were folks seated in the dark wooden pews. I could see the choir sitting on a dais in front of the congregation. There was no one at the pulpit, so I assumed we were on time.

Kayleigh started giggling as she put the pen down.

“What?” I asked.

She pointed at the guest book, so I walked over. I could see where she had written two names down. A closer look showed that the first name read Hugh G. Rection and, the second was Oliver Klozoff. I smiled, shook my head, and took her arm. We headed inside the quiet sanctuary. About halfway down to the front, Kayleigh spotted some seats that looked like they might accommodate us. She paused, pointed at the available seats and in a too-loud voice asked, “Excuse me, are these seats saved? Do you mind if my husband and I sit here?” The gentleman sitting nearby first shook his head, then nodded in assent.

Kayleigh grabbed my hand and shouted, “come on, honey, let’s sit here.” It was quite a production for her to get settled and, when she finally did, she farted loudly. “Hark!” she exclaimed, “An angel has spoken.” Tittering into her hand, she leaned back and settled in the pew, waiting. As if on cue, the choir rose and sang a hymn that I did not recognize as the pastor, and a few other church officials filed in and took their seats up front, on the dais.

Kayleigh chose that moment to rifle through her purse and come up with a pack of cigarettes and a pink plastic lighter. She leaned over to the gentleman she had spoken to earlier about the seat availability before asking, in a stage whisper, “Do you guys have the ashtray?”

He shook his head and looked at her in disgust. Kayleigh adopted an offended expression on her face. “Well, excuse me,” she said and returned the cigarettes to her purse. When the choir began another song, Kayleigh turned to me, “Christ, Bobby,” she said, “do they have to sing again?” I patted her arm to hush her and, she gradually calmed down for the song. When it was over, there was a huddle on the dais. Finally, a solitary man made his way to the pulpit. I assumed him to be the pastor of the church.

He spread his arms and addressed his flock, “Folks, those of you who have been coming here for a while will no doubt recognize that the always entertaining Kayleigh is back. We’re glad you’re here Kayleigh, we’ve missed you.”

Kayleigh kept her seat and waved.

I looked at her, wide-eyed. A smattering of soft laughter and applause echoed in the sanctuary.

When the congregation quieted again, Kayleigh hollered up at the pastor, “I’ve missed you too, preacher. Are you coming over for Christmas dinner today?” She jabbed her elbow into my ribs, “That’s my cousin, Richey,” she whispered.


This week’s prompts were:

  1. you lost more than your hair
  2. take her to church
  3. we’re going to the store

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 239- She

Written for OLWG# 239



She tried to get help from Mama Tambara, and she tried to get help from Babalawo Esupofo to no avail. She studied the local versions of Candomblé, Curanderismo, Espiritismo, Macumba and Santería. She found no answers.

When she found Caillou Botanica about ten miles upriver towards Baton Rouge, she knew for sure that those city witches were no damn good. Country witches had the answers she had been seeking. At Caillou, she learned the red candle magic she needed to lure Josue back to her bed. She could also source the materials she needed. She bought three slim red tapered candles, a length of red yarn, rose oil, yarrow oil, and lavender oil. She already had clippings from Josue’s hair and fingernails. She had a cigarette butt he had smoked and crushed out. She knew that this would work.

She began by cleaning the parlour and closing the windows. She poured her oils in the tub and bathed in candlelight. When she returned to the parlour, she covered the mirrors with pink towels and placed a spray of honeysuckle blossoms on the table. The Botanica had advised that an apple or a glass of red wine would help. She had an apple, but not the wine, so she recited the incantations as she lit the three candles and burned both ends of the red yarn, which she looped three times around her wrist and tied off as a bracelet.

Naked, she lay on the davenport, closed her eyes and slept. The candles had to remain undisturbed. They should not be allowed to go out prematurely. She dreamed of Josue and hoped that he would come back soon.


This week’s prompts were:

  1. dirt under his nails and smoke in his lungs
  2. city witches
  3. a thousand blackbirds

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 238- A Sudden Gust of Wind

Written for OLWG# 238



It was late, or more accurately, it was early when Elspeth Muir and I approached the churchyard. We were coming up from the river where we had spent half the night drinking cheap wine, smoking skinny cigars, and telling lies about when we were young. Elspeth leaned against the gate to push it open. I stopped.

“What are you doing El?”

“Taking a shortcut,” she replied. Cutting through the churchyard will save us at least fifteen minutes.

“I don’t want to go through there,” I said, my feet frozen in place.

“Come on, TN. You scared?”

“No, I’m not scared. I don’t like graveyards, is all.”

“There are no ghosts here. It’s just a place of bones. The spirits are long gone.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because I’m not in there, am I? Well, my bones are, but my essence is here with you. How long have we known each other?”

I thought about what she had just said. I couldn’t remember not knowing Elspeth. She was the one constant in my life.

“We’ve known each other forever,” I answered, but my intonation made the statement sound like a question.

“Exactly,” she said. “I’ve always been with you. Why do you think that is?”

“Dunno.”

“You’re my charge.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Means that I’ve always been with you, and I always will be.”

“Are you asking me to marry you, El?”

“Oh, God-No! I was married once. I’m never going to do that again.”

“What do you mean, ‘you were married once’?” I asked. “I think I’d remember that.”

“No, you wouldn’t that was…” she drew a deep breath between her teeth, making a kind of hissing noise. “Jeeze, that must’ve been a couple hundred years ago. Come on now, I want to show you my grave. It’s just over there.” She pointed to a large oak about a hundred yards away. She took my hand and led me in the direction of the ancient tree.

We stopped in front of a 1200 pound carved marble slab that read:

Elspeth Muir
Beloved wife of John
Born: July 23, 1782 – Died: September 16, 1805
Drown’d in Lake Champlain
by a sudden gust of wind


This week’s prompts were:

  1. a place of bones
  2. the broken, the beaten, and the damned
  3. stronger than gratitude

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 237- Unburdened by a Title

Written for OLWG# 237



The game was five-card draw
Yancy pulled his hand in and stacked the cards neatly
He didn’t fan them yet
He didn’t peek
He could learn a lot by watching the others look at theirs.

Ante’s and openers flew onto the table.

Monique was on his left. her hand on Yancy’s knee
she looked at hers and gave his thigh a little squeeze
Was she playing him, or were her cards just that good
she took two

Louis pulled the napkin from beneath his Vodka Collins
and wiped his brow
His facial expression was unmoving, an Easter Island statue
Louis took one

Phil smiled – a hundred watts, at least
can’t read anything from that
Phil’s always smiling
he took two too

Archie, well, Archie leaned back in his chair
he didn’t pull the cards in
he didn’t touch them at all – he wouldn’t either
Archie waved his hand – none

Yancy fanned his hand and took four

The pot grew more
Phil finally folded
and more,
Louis called

Monique had a full-house
eights over aces – not a bad hand
Louis had four twos – even better
Arch slowly turned his cards over, one at a time
He had a King. He grimaced and transferred his cigar
from one hand to the other, spilling ashes on his lap

“Whatcha got, Yance?” Louis asked
“A bunch of fives. Six of them.”
Yancy said as he laid his cards on the table
Monique squeezed his knee harder
Louis drew in a quick breath
Archie shook with laughter
Phil smiled even bigger

Monique slipped a shiv between Yancy’s ribs,
He collapsed at the table


This week’s prompts were:

  1. selling jewellery out of his car
  2. a bunch of fives
  3. it’s just a game

OLWG · writing

A Long Con?

Written for the fun of it

Santiago and Sebastian Cardoso were brothers. Santiago was presumed to be the elder, although there was some question about that. The brothers were identical twins. Their mother admitted she often confused the two, and Santiago might have been Sebastian or vice versa. Who knew?

Mama told them that there was only eighteen minutes between them and that just wasn’t enough time to quibble over. Her view was it didn’t matter who was who. They were brothers. They were identical, and they would often swap places when it suited them.

The boys grew up rough on the Southwest side of a Texas border town. They drifted towards crime and grift as a way of life. It was probably fourth grade when they partnered up with a classmate. In school, she was called Estrella, which means ‘Star.’ Outside of school, she would choose a different name every day.

She said, “Names have power, like magic spells.” She told the boys that a Disney Princess had taught her that and that it was true. Her favourite aliases included ‘Esme,’ ‘Dia,’ ‘Noemi,’ ‘Mija,’ ‘Dulce,’ and sometimes ‘Soledad.’ She liked Soledad because it sounded old fashioned.

Being cute, Trella was an easy distraction in a convenience store.  She could draw the clerks attention while the Cardoso boys stole candies, sodas, dirty magazines, and beer. The team was successful, and they never got caught. Over time the scams grew more sophisticated and the trio more successful.

Flash forward twenty years. The team was still working together. The stakes were higher. Trella and the boys would travel the world and run the Peking Watch Game, Lost Heir Scams, and all types of Romance Hustles. Foreign Lottery Scams were their bread and butter in the States because no face to face interaction with the marks was required. The whole game could be played by email, or better yet, registered mail.

They were particularly successful running the Barros Luco shakedown (or, as Santiago and Sebastian called it, The Dead Hooker). They worked this in Switzerland, Barbados, Spain, and Italy – plenty of times in Italy. The most successful time was just outside Prato against an easy mark. An hotelier with a jealous wife who had a well-connected father.

It all ended when they were running a Badger Game in Florida. The mark was a wealthy Real Estate Developer named Luke Mccann. The brothers got arrested, tried and convicted. Trella, who had been playing the hooker and was known to Mccann as Itzel, got away.

At  Marianna Camp, Sebastian would often stare at the ceiling of his cell and wonder if he and Santiago were not as clever as they had believed.  Had they been played since the fourth grade?